NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

County Employees Make More than the Residents They Serve

August 12, 2013

Nine out of 10 of the highest-paying county governments in the United States are in California (the other is a wealthy New York suburb with an exceptionally high cost of living), according to a Washington Examiner analysis of county employee compensation data.

  • When it comes to city governments, the nine highest payers are also all in the Golden State, including Oakland, at $99,000.
  • The average government worker in Fremont makes $108,000; in San Jose, it's $100,000; in Los Angeles, it's $93,000.

While working for California local governments can mean high salaries and extraordinarily generous pensions, the Examiner found that county workers made more than their private-sector counterparts virtually everywhere on the East Coast, the West Coast and the Rust Belt.

High salaries for California's runaway public workforce will cause problems not just now, but down the line, as pensions are pegged to pay.

  • The Examiner computed average county worker salaries from the Census Bureau's 2011 Government Employment & Payroll survey and compared them with the median salaries of full-time workers in the same counties from the Census' 2009-2011 tally to account for cost of living differences. (Median salaries were not available from the government employees survey.)
  • All counties with populations of 100,000 or more, and a sampling of smaller ones, were included.
  • Teachers, because they aren't year-round employees, were excluded.

Earlier this year, California enacted legislation to tighten pensions for new employees, but many loopholes remain, including allowing local workers to retire and begin collecting a pension, then resume working with the government for an additional salary.

Source: Luke Rosiak, "County Employees Can Earn Twice as Much as Residents They Serve," Washington Examiner, August 6, 2013.


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